Volume 42 Winter, 1999 No. 4
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
PRESIDENT'S PERSPECTIVE by Sanford J. Alexander, III
NOTIONS by Nancy Johnson
AAVL, THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK by William Lewis
GSA SHIFT HURTING NONPROFITS by Stephen Barr, The Washington Post
HOUSE PASSES JOB BENEFIT FOR DISABLED by John F. Harris, Washington Post Staff Writer
THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary
SALUTE TO PEDESTRIANS by Charles Crawford
MICROSOFT AND NBDC ANNOUNCE ABLE TO WORK CONSORTIUM
VERY INTERESTING OPINION IN DOG GUIDE CASE
READER TRANSLATES ELECTRONIC TEXTS INTO BRAILLE by Margaret Quan
TOUCHING AND TAPPING THROUGH LIFE By Rachel Sobel, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
SLEEP SHADE TRAINING NEBRASKA STYLE By Michael L. Renner
BITS AND PIECES
By Sanford J. Alexander, III
Charles Dickens wrote in The Tale of Two Cities that it was
the best of times; it was the worst of times.
I feel services to blind people are somewhat at the same
crossroads today and that events in the next several months will
decide whether or not blind and visually impaired Kansans are able
to enjoy the services and choices that will make it possible for
them to achieve full, first-class citizenship; since a population
that sports an unemployment rate of nearly 75% can hardly be
thought to be enjoying such status at this time.
Across the state we have witnessed a dream almost die at the
hands of little-minded, jealous blind people and insensitive,
incompetent sighted program administrators. We have also felt the
hurt of how much the needs of blind and visually impaired
individuals in terms of access technology needs are misunderstood
and unappreciated by an unknowledgeable public.
We have also seen a subtle change in the wind direction from
the State agency, spearheaded by the most open and honest attempt
to establish a dialogue with the blind community that we have seen
in many years.
In Great Bend over the weekend of October 22-24, 1999, K A B V I
enjoyed one of its best conventions ever. We were joined by Alan
Beatty, President of American Council of Blind Lions who is working
hard to improve the relationship between the Lions organization and
the blind community they have, according to Mr. Beatty, underserved
for many years.
Presidents and vice presidents of the five local affiliates
joined me for breakfast during convention and we discussed how they
could both benefit from and contribute to the efforts of the state
organization. Several projects will certainly spring from this
Those attending the banquet helped celebrate the career of
retired DSB Director Suzannah Erhart who was presented with the
Eleanor A. Wilson Award. Suzannah shared many memories and helped
us understand the importance of our meetings in the development of
Don Cox, retiring from his position as Director of
Rehabilitation at Envision, was presented with K A B V I's first
honorary lifetime membership following his "farewell address"
during which he reviewed some of the accomplishments of the past
couple of years and pointed out some of the areas about which we
must be watchful in the future if we are to achieve our goals.
An historic presentation was made by K A B V I's Michael Byington
and NFBK First Vice President Richard Edlund dealing with the topic
of the commission for the blind which is currently awaiting action
in the State legislature. Who would ever have expected to live to
hear Michael Byington tell the K A B V I audience that we were working
so closely with the NFBK on this bill and that things would be
happening very quickly; so, whatever we were asked to do by he,
myself, Dick Edlund or Susie Stanzel, should be done without
The convention closed with Susie Stanzel addressing the
convention and stating that she had an enjoyable time, learned a
great deal and had been treated courteously. She said: "This was
the first ACB or K A B V I event I have attended in my entire life;
but, it won't be the last."
As I look forward to making a presentation on the Future
Design Team report to the NFBK convention, I must reflect on how
far we have truly traveled along the road of cooperation. I also
must marvel at how it took the threat of total dismantling of the
Division of Services for the Blind, the planned closing of Kansas
Industries for the Blind, and the reorganization of SRS into a
structure that clearly presented concerns for the blind community
to bring us together. It took the threat of extinction to make us
see that the majority of issues upon which we agree are far more
vital to our future than are many of the things about which we
differ. In addition, we have found room to allow the other
organization to champion issues it regards as important without the
threat of suffocating opposition.
We have a long way to go before we can feel confident that
services for the blind in Kansas will be configured in a manner
that will provide the best quality service for the most efficient
expenditure of funds; but, we are closer than we have been in a
long time. We still have many areas of apprehension with which we
must deal, including major changes in service philosophy that hold
promise of underserving or improperly serving us.
From my perspective, this convention will be looked back upon
as one of the pivotal events in the history of K A B V I and I am
gratified to have had the privilege of playing a role in setting
the stage upon which the drama will be played.
by Nancy Johnson
I need only a small space to wish you all wonderful holidays
and that the up-coming year turns out to be all you hope it will
Your job and mine is to keep smiling as we work hard to
achieve our goals as individuals and as an organization. K A B V I is
your organization. Communicate with your board members and let
them know how well they're moving your organization in the
direction you want it to go.
I could say I'll see you next time, or next year - even next
century. And that's all true. So - see you next millennium!
AAVL, THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
by William Lewis
It has been almost ten years since The American Council of the
Blind (ACB) accepted a new special interest affiliate. But on
Valentine's Day 1999 a charter was granted to Alliance On Aging And
Vision Loss (AAVL); and on Independence Day 1999 the charter was
accepted, along with its Constitution and Bylaws, at its first
official meetings. A 501(C)(3) organization, AAVL focuses on the
needs of people who are living their second half of life with the
additional problems of vision loss. Its motto is "We see things
differently." Its purposes, as printed in the September issue of
its newsletter are, "We strive to improve our adjustment,
independence, knowledge, opportunity, security, and enjoyment of
life, as we interact and advocate together. Membership is open to
any adult who is interested in supporting the goals of the Alliance
On Aging And Vision Loss."
Since conventions occur but once a year, it is the
organization's newsletter that keeps members and officers in touch
with one another across this wide country. THE AAVL HOUR GLASS is
a quarterly publication full of "news you can use," and is directed
to the interests and needs of its special class of members.
Over the next twenty years, people over 50 will comprise about
one-third of our population. Along with that surge will also come
an increase in life span and its resulting health problems,
including age-related vision loss. AAVL hopes to be up front
educating, instructing, supporting, and provoking its members with
mentoring support and adjustment tips. Whereas national magazines
cost from twenty to forty dollars per year, membership
in AAVL provides members much of the same information in fewer
words through the AAVL HOUR GLASS and only for ten dollars per
So come make friends with this new kid on the block. You'll
make buddies for life as you interact with some of the country's
most educated, experienced, mature, and upbeat people you are
likely to ever meet.
A membership application, brochure, and copy of the AAVL
Constitution and Bylaws are available by request from the AAVL
Corresponding Secretary, Al Gayzagian; 74 Lincoln Street;
Watertown, MA 02472; 617-926-7641; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Someone once wrote that success was the realization of a
worthy goal. If that be so, this new group is going somewhere.
GSA HURTING NONPROFITS
Copyright 1999 The Washington Post
The Washington Post
September 28, 1999, Tuesday, Final Edition
SECTION: A SECTION; Pg. A23; THE FEDERAL PAGE
HEADLINE: GSA Shift Hurting Nonprofits; Warehouse Closures May Mean
Layoffs for Blind Workers
BYLINE: Stephen Barr, Washington Post Staff Writer
A decision by the General Services Administration to close
eight supply centers has spilled into the nonprofit sector and put
more than 1,000 blind workers at risk of being laid off, according
to nonprofit group officials.
GSA officials said they did not intend to throw blind workers
out of jobs but acknowledged it was possible that nonprofit
organizations have lost sales as GSA warehouses reduce their stocks
in anticipation of closing.
"We are going to look at that hard and make sure we didn't do
anything inadvertent," GSA Administrator David J. Barram said
For decades, GSA has stocked pencils, pads, janitorial
products and even mattresses made by blind workers at its
warehouses under a federal law designed to create job opportunities
for the disabled.
But financial pressures growing out of increased competition
from private sector supply stores, the trend toward "electronic
commerce" via the Internet and fundamental changes to the
government's procurement system in recent years have forced GSA to
rethink its role as the government's chief supply clerk and
Federal agencies no longer are required to purchase supplies
from GSA, and increasing numbers of federal workers use
government-issued credit cards to make small purchases at
commercial stores. Commercial vendors also are offering a growing
number of products at competitive prices to government offices
through electronic lists on the GSA Web site.
With the Internet becoming an increasing force in commerce,
top GSA officials viewed their warehouses as marketplace laggards,
sometimes setting prices for products too high. In July, GSA
announced the shutdown of four depots and four smaller "supply
points," but without advance warning to the nonprofits.
Within weeks, the GSA warehouses quit buying from the
nonprofits to shrink their stock of supplies as they prepare to
close next year. With no new orders coming in, the nonprofits
struggled to keep their work forces intact. They scrambled to
create distribution channels on the Internet and through alliances
with private sector companies that sell to government agencies.
The GAO decision set off a "domino effect," said Jim Gibbons,
president of the National Industries for the Blind, which has sold
$135 million to $160 million worth of products every year through
"We have already experienced layoffs [and] work reductions and
across the country, [nonprofit] agencies are evaluating how they
are going to keep businesses running and people employed," Gibbons
Bob Plunkett, president of the San Antonio Lighthouse, said,
"This is the worst situation we've faced that I can remember."
The San Antonio Lighthouse, which employs about 120 blind
workers, makes mechanical pencils, paper clips, sweat pants for the
Army and oil analysis kits used by the Air Force to determine
engine maintenance needs. The workers, on average, make about $6
"Last week I had to announce for the first time that we would
go to a three-day mandatory week and we eliminated 23 part-time
jobs held by people who are blind and have other severe
disabilities," Plunkett said. "We had to eliminate the part-timers
to keep the others going."
"If the situation does not improve soon, all of these
employees are at risk of a major reduction in force. You can only
go so long before you have to shut down," Plunkett said.
Barram said GSA would work to help nonprofits employing the
blind keep their share of the government's business and would
remind agencies that a 1938 law favors the purchase of products
made by the blind.
"Our whole supply system has been changing pretty fast,"
Barram said. "A third of our work force is working on 10 percent
of our business. That's the underlying and overlying reason for
this whole thing. We've tried very hard to put together a program
for customers, vendors and suppliers."
In its July announcement, GSA said the agency would create a
"virtual platform" so that government agencies could do the bulk of
their supply shopping online at the GSA Web site, instead of
calling in orders to the supply centers. But the plan to close the
supply centers has prompted union opposition - up to 2,000 federal
employees could lose their jobs. Union officials also complained
that Barram has not provided them with an estimate of cost savings.
The American Federation of Government Employees Council 236
filed a grievance to overturn Barram's plan and won an arbitration
decision earlier this month. Arbitrator Jerome H. Ross ordered GSA
to cancel its plans to close the supply centers and to bargain with
But Barram rejected the arbitration decision and plans to
appeal to the Federal Labor Relations Authority. "I would rather
have us in closer agreement with our unions than we are now," he
acknowledged. "We are trying to get there."
GSA chief David J. Barram said the agency will try to help
nonprofit groups employing the blind keep their share of government
Following is the response from American Council of the Blind
President Paul Edwards to the Washington Post. It relates to the
serious situation created by the U.S. General Services
Administration decision to close distribution depots and the risk
it poses to blind industrial workers.
The American Council of the Blind takes strong exception to
the representations of General Services Administrator David Barram
made in your article of September 28, entitled "GSA Shift Hurting
Nonprofits; Warehouse Closures May Mean Layoffs for Blind Workers."
In essence, GSA argues that they did not "intend" to throw
blind workers out of their jobs and that they "are going to look at
that hard and make sure we didn't do anything inadvertent." So
then what are we to conclude?
Intended or not, 23 blind folks are now not working and up to
1,400 more are at risk. Taking a hard look at whether anything was
done inadvertently is a real interesting point of logic. Seeing
the results of people losing jobs either means they obviously did
something inadvertent or they allowed for such a possibility which
they have already said was not their intent.
The reality of this is clear. GSA deliberately followed the
path of reinventing government without sufficient thought as to
what the consequences would be. Now a major agency of an
Administration, that got where it is partly on the promise that
"America has nobody to waste", finds itself putting the jobs of
1,400 blind folks and 2,000 federal employees at risk.
In the face of this reality we get rhetoric about taking long
hard looks, rather than the three obvious things they need to do.
First, slow down the closing of distribution depots to allow other
systems to ramp up to carry the load. Second, make an unequivocal
and affirmative statement to federal customers that the products
made by blind folks are still there and they need to be buying them
under the law. Thirdly, put a management scheme in place that
thinks through decisions and actions to either prevent crisis or
manage it quickly when unintended results occur.
This is the mark of real understanding and management. Lets
see what they do and how long their hard look will be as more blind
folks who only want to play by the rules and earn a living lose
We as a consumer organization of the blind know those workers
who make the pens and other items for purchase by the government.
They are everyday people with everyday lives. They have families
and they work hard. They don't earn anything near what a GSA
Administrator earns, but they do earn it and its time GSA take the
immediate and remedial action it must to honor the trust these
folks have placed in the decisions of the Administrator.
HOUSE PASSES JOB BENEFIT FOR DISABLED
By John F. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 20, 1999; Page A02
"The House gave overwhelming approval yesterday to a bill
designed to let disabled people keep their government health
benefits when they go to work, reducing what critics of the current
system call a "perverse incentive" that keeps many disabled people
The House's 412 to 9 vote was an important advance for the
Work Incentives Improvement Act, a version of which has already
passed the Senate on a 99 to 0 vote. But the legislation still
faces considerable hurdles before enactment, most of them over how
to pay for the measure.
President Clinton, in a statement, hailed what he called an
"impressive vote" for the legislation, which he said "sends a
strong signal that all Americans, including people with
disabilities, should have the opportunity to work." But he warned
that the House bill had "inadequate and problematic financing
provisions," including one that the White House warned would hurt
funding for student loans.
The Senate's measure, moreover, did not include funding
provisions at all. The financing problem means the fate of the
bill will depend heavily on the work of House and Senate
negotiators in a conference committee. Leaders in both parties say
they want the disabilities measure to transcend the heavy partisan
acrimony that has affected so much other legislation, and have
expressed optimism that an acceptable compromise will be found.
Some 75 percent of disabled adults are unemployed, according
to administration backers of the bill. The House bill would allow
disabled people who receive Social Security Disability Insurance
and return to work to receive Medicare health coverage for up to 10
years, as opposed to four years under current law. The bill also
allows states to let disabled people who return to work buy into
the Medicaid program.
It also gives new help to disabled people to buy
rehabilitation services needed to enter the work force. Backers
estimate that if fully implemented, the bill would allow the number
of disabled people receiving rehabilitation and training services
to more than quadruple, to 550,000, according to an Associated
The legislation originated in the Senate, where its sponsors
were Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and James M. Jeffords
(R-Vt.). The two had proposed paying for the estimated $800 million
five-year cost of the measure by eliminating a tax break for some
overseas corporate operations. Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) opposed
ending the tax break and the bill won passage only when the
provision was dropped. No alternate funding mechanism was proposed.
Clinton included funding for the measure in his budget
proposal earlier this year, but that spending plan was a
dead-letter on Capitol Hill. The House has found funding sources
for about $300 million of the projected five-year cost.
"This is the most dramatic breakthrough for Americans with
disabilities since the Americans With Disabilities Act," said Rep.
Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.), sponsor of the House version. Lazio has
complained that the White House has not done enough to find funding
sources for the measure, but White House officials said they have
worked with Democrats in the House, and senators in both parties.
The White House's top health policy official, Chris Jennings,
expressed optimism that an acceptable proposal would emerge this
fall. "It's not perfect yet. It's not adequately financed yet," he
said, "but it's easily worth proceeding into the conference."
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
October 19, 1999
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
I am extremely pleased that the House, by an overwhelming
bipartisan vote today, passed legislation that will remove barriers
to work for Americans with disabilities. Today's impressive vote
for the Work Incentives Improvement Act sends a strong signal that
all Americans, including people with disabilities, should have the
opportunity to work. Now I call on Congress to finish the job, so
more Americans can start to work.
My Administration has helped create more than 19 million new
jobs in the last six and a half years, and unemployment is at a
29-year low. Yet almost three out of four Americans with severe
disabilities who want to work are not working. Since taking
office, I have made empowering and promoting the independence of
people with disabilities a priority. Central to this effort is
taking down barriers to work for people with disabilities. One of
the biggest barriers these Americans face is the fear of losing
their health insurance when they get a job. Under current law,
many people with disabilities cannot work and keep their Medicaid
or Medicare coverage, creating a tremendous disincentive to work.
The Work Incentives Improvement Act would help ensure that
people with disabilities do not lose their health care when they
gain a job. It would give workers with disabilities the option to
buy into Medicaid and would extend Medicare coverage for people
with disabilities who return to work. The Work Incentives
Improvement Act also modernizes the vocational rehabilitation
system by creating a "ticket" that enables an SSI or SSDI
beneficiary to go to either a public or private provider of
In my State of the Union Address nine months ago, I urged the
Congress to make this historic legislation a top priority, and I
fully funded it in the budget I sent to Congress. Like the House,
the Senate has overwhelmingly passed the Work Incentives
Improvement Act, thanks to the leadership of Senators Jeffords,
Kennedy, Roth, and Moynihan. The bill that passed today has flaws.
These include limitations on the health options and inadequate and
problematic financing provisions, particularly one affecting
student loans. I urge the Congress to address these issues
this year and send me this legislation. Americans with
disabilities who want to work should not have to wait any longer
for that opportunity.
SALUTE TO PEDESTRIANS
by Charles Crawford
September 13, 1999, marks the hundredth anniversary of the
first pedestrian death in North America. On that day in New York
City, Heney Bliss was killed when he was struck by a taxi while
crossing a busy Manhattan street. Over the intervening one hundred
years, an estimated 500,000 people have been killed by motor
vehicles while walking on public rights-of-way in North America,
with an estimated 1,000,000 vertebrate animals being killed each
day in North America.
This is an enormous price to pay for the "convenience" and
"freedom" afforded by motor vehicles and one which has had major
impacts on our society. Although pedestrian deaths have declined
in recent years, the incidence of walking has declined even more as
more and more people get the idea: Walking is dangerous, and
drivers are no longer caring or cautious. In fact, drivers are
purposely intimidating pedestrians from using their legal
rights-of-way. In this climate, fewer and fewer parents are
allowing their children to walk independently until they are close
to their teen years, resulting in a great loss in autonomy for
today's youth, with consequences for their physical and social
development which are only beginning to emerge.
On this one hundredth anniversary of the beginning of what
many see as a major community problem, we salute the many millions
who, despite the risks and intimidation, continue to walk. We call
upon drivers to respect the basic rights to life and security of
the person (Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
of all those using public rights-of-way. Finally, we call upon
governments at all levels to respect the rights of all citizens
to safely and conveniently walk; in particular, pedestrian deaths
warrant coroner's inquests. And for those who want to join what is
a growing global struggle, check out the following web-site - http:
MICROSOFT AND NBDC ANNOUNCE ABLE TO WORK CONSORTIUM
Corporate Alliance Will Tackle High Unemployment Rate Among People
REDMOND, Wash., Oct. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Microsoft Corp.
(Nasdaq: MSFT) Chairman and CEO Bill Gates today announced the
formation of Able to Work, an independent business consortium
dedicated to increasing employment opportunities for people with
disabilities. Together with the National Business & Disability
Council (NBDC), Microsoft has assembled an Able to Work membership
of 21 leading North American companies, all of which will bring
their experience to bear in identifying tools and strategies to
help businesses in every industry tap into this capable, motivated
work force. With an unemployment rate topping 70 percent among
working-age people with disabilities, this is the most
underutilized segment of America's work force.
"Businesses in virtually every industry -- the technology
industry not excepted -- are struggling today to find enough
qualified applicants to fill open jobs," Gates said during his
keynote speech to the NBDC annual CEO conference. "With this in
mind, and with a strong belief that accessible technology can be
part of the solution, Microsoft conceived of Able to Work to raise
awareness of the value in recruiting and hiring people with
disabilities, and to provide concrete tools and information to help
businesses understand and tap into this work force."
Able to Work, led by Executive Director Francine Tishman and
managed on an ongoing basis by NBDC, will undertake two main
initiatives during its first year. Abletowork.org, a new
interactive Web site available today, provides member companies and
others with an online venue for posting job openings, as well as a
resume posting service that allows them to search and review
thousands of resumes from individuals with disabilities who have
completed post-high-school education and/or training.
In addition, Able to Work members will participate in a pilot
employment program to be conducted in partnership with the
Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults With Disabilities.
This alliance between government and business, pushing forward on
employment issues that impact both groups, will lead to specific,
measurable opportunities for people with disabilities in the
workplace. Specifics of the program will be announced by the task
force later this fall.
Able to Work members represent a range of industries,
including high technology, consumer products, financial services,
manufacturing and staffing services. All currently recruit and hire
people with disabilities in their workplaces. Through Able to Work,
these companies will provide mentoring and direction to both small
and large businesses throughout the country that haven't begun
recruiting potential employees with disabilities. Able to Work
charter members include the following organizations: AT&T Corp.
AT&T Wireless, Bank of America Corp., Booz, Allen & Hamilton,
Caterpillar Inc., Crestar Bank, A Subsidiary of SunTrust Banks
Inc., Ford Motor Co., Honeywell Inc., IBM Corp., Johnson & Johnson,
Lucent Technologies Inc., MBNA Corp., Medtronic Physio-Control
Inc., Merrill Lynch & Co., Microsoft, NCR Corp., Procter & Gamble
Co., Royal Bank of Canada, SAFECO Corp., Staffcentrix.com,
UnumProvident Corporation, Washington Mutual Inc.
"The fact that Able to Work represents some of North America's
most successful and respected companies underscores our belief that
the business community is extremely motivated to address the
problem of underemployment among individuals with disabilities, and
that they recognize the strong business case for doing so," said
Francine Tishman, executive director of both Able to Work and NBDC.
"We're looking forward to rolling up our sleeves with the members
to identify new recruiting and accommodation ideas and strategies,
and to getting started on the Web site and pilot programs right
Microsoft has long worked with the disability community to
identify the technology needs of people with disabilities, with an
emphasis on how those technologies can empower people in the
workplace. With the 10th anniversary of the Americans With
Disabilities Act approaching in June 2000, and the unemployment
rate of people with disabilities still staggeringly high, the
company decided to take action in addressing this problem in
concert with other major U.S. employers.
ABOUT NBDC: The National Business & Disability Council is the
leading national resource for the successful integration of persons
with disabilities into the work force and consumer marketplace.
Comprising many Fortune 1000 corporate members with headquarters
throughout the country, NBDC members collectively employ
approximately 600,000 workers with disabilities.
NBDC is the recipient of the prestigious U.S. Department of
Labor EPIC Award for its achievements in working with the business
community. Its services include an online information hot line, job
postings, monthly informational updates, a newsletter, customized
staff training programs, accessibility surveys, conferences, and a
national resume database. Larry Gloeckler, deputy commissioner of
New York State, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Services is
among several experts who will advise corporate consortium members
on issues facing employment of persons with disabilities.
ABOUT MICROSOFT: Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide
leader in software for personal and business computing. The company
offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower
people through great software -- any time, any place and on any
NOTE: Microsoft is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corp.
in the United States and/or other countries. Other product and
company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.
SOURCE Microsoft Corp.
VERY INTERESTING OPINION IN DOG GUIDE CASE
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following regards a case in which the
American Council of the Blind (ACB) advised that the organization
would legally represent the individual who brought the complaint
should she and ACB agree that such representation should become
necessary. Many legal citations and extensive legal language were
used but have been omitted for the sake of space.
The City of Cincinnati, on May 4, 1999, through James L.
Johnson, Assistant City Solicitor, sent the following information
in reply to a Request for a Legal Opinion Regarding Dog Guides in
Taxicabs to Kent Ryan, Director of Safety.
According to the information provided, these are the
essential, uncontroverted facts. On February 4, 1999, at 3:45
p.m., Annie McEachirn, a legally blind person, approached Sunshine
Cab 742, first in line on the Omni Taxi Stand at Fifth and Race
Streets, and requested a ride to her residence. Ms. McEachirn was
accompanied by her dog guide, a black Labrador. The driver of the
taxi, Hassan Taher, refused the fare, telling her he was allergic
to dogs, and that it was against his religion to be in the same car
as the dog. Ms. McEachirn was transported to her residence by Tom
Ellis, the driver of Ellis Taxicab 3, the second taxi on the stand.
The question raised is whether the driver could legally refuse to
transport a legally blind person and her dog guide for either of
the two reasons he gave.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Cincinnati
Municipal Code (CMC) and the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) require that
a taxicab driver transport a blind person and the person's dog
guide. This determination is supported by decisions of the United
States (US) Supreme Court. His complaint that he is allergic to
dogs and that it would violate his religious beliefs are not
sufficient to overcome Ms. McEachirn's rights under the ADA, the
ORC or the CMC.
The First Amendment to the US Constitution provides that
Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
ORC provides that when a blind, deaf or mobility impaired
person is accompanied by a dog that serves as a guide, leader or
listener, or support dog for him, the person is entitled to full
and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of
all public conveyances, hotels, lodging places, all places of
accommodation, and other places to which the general public is
invited, and may take the dog into such conveyances and places.
ORC also provides that no person shall deprive a blind, deaf or
mobility impaired person of any of the above provided-for or charge
such person a fee for the dog (guide).
The CMC provides that it shall be the duty of every driver of
an unengaged taxicab, upon request, to transport any orderly person
between any two points within the city. CMC also provides that
every applicant for a license as a driver of a taxicab shall make
application to the Director of Safety, which shall set forth that
the applicant is free of any infirmity, physical or mental, which
would render the applicant unfit for safe operation of a public
The ADA says, as a general rule, no individual shall be
discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and
equal enjoyment of specified transportation services provided by a
private entity that is engaged primarily in the business of
transporting people and whose operations affect commerce. It also
establishes the general rule that no individual shall be
discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and
equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges,
advantages or accommodations of any place of public accommodation
by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place
of public accommodation.
Disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that
substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of
such individual; a record of such impairment; or being regarded as
having such impairment.
Major life activities are functions such as caring for
oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing,
speaking, breathing, learning and working.
Place of public accommodation means a facility, operated by a
private entity, whose operations affect commerce and fall within
specified categories, one category being a terminal, depot or other
station used for specified public transportation.
Specified public transportation means transportation by bus,
rail or any other public conveyance (other than by aircraft) that
provides the general public with general or special service
(including charter service) on a regular and continuing basis.
The Justice Department is directed to issue regulations
implementing Title III of the ADA.
The definition for place of public accommodation is further
clarified by rules and regulations, Department of Justice. The
term place of public accommodation is an adaptation of the
statutory definition of public accommodation and appears as an
element of the regulatory definition of public accommodation. The
final rule defines place of public accommodation as a facility,
operated by a public entity, whose operations affect commerce and
fall within at least one of twelve specified categories. The term
public accommodation, on the other hand, is reserved by the final
rule for the private entity that owns, leases, (or leases to), or
operates a place of public accommodation. It is the public
accommodation, and not the place of public accommodation, that is
subject to the regulation's nondiscrimination requirements.
Placing the obligation not to discriminate on the public
accommodation, as defined in the rule, is consistent with the ADA,
which places the obligation not to discriminate on any person who
owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public
accommodation. Generally, a public accommodation shall modify
policies and procedures to permit the use of a service animal by an
individual with a disability. ADA regulations use the term service
animals for dog guides and other animals used by individuals with
In its interpretive commentary, the Justice Department states:
The final rule now provides that generally, a public accommodation
shall modify policies, practices and procedures to permit the use
of a service animal by an individual with a disability.
Formulation reflects the general intent of Congress that public
accommodations take the necessary steps to accommodate service
animals and to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not
separated from their service animals. It is intended that the
broadest feasible access be provided to service animals in all
places of public accommodation, including movie theaters,
restaurants, hotels, hospitals, retail stores and nursing homes.
The section also acknowledges that, in rare circumstances,
accommodation of service animals may not be required because a
fundamental alteration would result in the nature of the goods,
services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations
offered or provided, or the safe operation of the public
accommodation would be jeopardized.
The US Supreme Court determined, in a case involving the issue
of the sacramental use of peyote, an illegal substance under Oregon
State law that: We have never held that an individual's religious
beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law
prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate. The record
of more than a century of our free exercise jurisprudence
contradicts that proposition.
Quoting, with approval, from a Supreme Court Decision
previously overruled with reasons unrelated to issues relevant to
Ms. McEachirn's complaint, the court stated that conscientious
scruples have not, in the course of the long struggle for religious
toleration, relieved the individual from obedience to a general law
not aimed at the promotion or restriction of religious beliefs.
The mere possession of religious convictions which contradict the
relevant concerns of a political society does not relieve the
citizen from the discharge of political responsibilities. Laws are
made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere
with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices.
Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his
religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed
doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and
in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.
In a decision reversing convictions for violating a
Connecticut statute prohibiting the solicitation of funds for
religious causes without prior state approval, the US Supreme Court
stated: Thus the First Amendment embraces two concepts - freedom
to believe and freedom to act. The first is absolute but, in the
nature of things, the second cannot be. Conduct remains subject to
regulation for the protection of society.
In a decision determining that a brewery violated the ADA by
refusing to allow a blind man and his dog guide to take a public
brewery tour, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth District said
the legislative history of Title III makes clear that Congress
concluded that it is a reasonable modification for places of public
accommodation with animal restrictions policies to allow
individuals with disabilities full use of service animals. The
brewery in this case offered to provide a personal human guide
which the complainant declined.
Ms. McEachirn experienced discrimination and unequal treatment
despite the fact that the next cab in line drove her to her
destination. Mr. Taher would have transported her without
hesitation if she were not disabled. Her inconvenience would have
been greater had he declined to transport her upon being dispatched
to her home.
Mr. Taher's right to hold the religious belief that dogs are
impure is protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
His decision to act upon that religious belief by declining to
transport a blind person with a dog guide is not protected by the
First Amendment and violates the ADA, Ohio law and the CMC. (The
decisions of the Supreme Court made it unnecessary to consider
whether his approach to dogs is consistent with the tenets of his
religion.) The Supreme Court has made it clear that the exercise
of religious beliefs may be restricted by laws addressing
legitimate areas of political concern that are aimed at neither the
promotion nor restriction of religious beliefs. The ADA and
similar legislative enactments clearly meet the standard the Court
The Department of Justice has determined, in interpreting the
ADA, that taxi services to the public are covered by the ADA. The
Department stated, in an opinion letter dated April 29, 1992,
written by the Chief of the Department of Justice, Civil Rights
Division, Coordination and Review Section to a New Orleans
Consulting Firm: The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of
disability in the provision of transportation services to the
general public by bus, rail or any other conveyance on a regular
and continuing basis by any private entity that is primarily
engaged in the business of transporting people and whose operations
affect commerce. This requirement would include taxi services.
Mr. Taher's second reason for not transporting Ms. McEachirn,
that he is allergic to dogs, similarly does not provide him with a
legitimate defense to her complaint. He stated to Public Vehicle
officials that his allergy to dogs is such that a dog in the car
would make him so ill that he would have problems driving due to
sneezing and watery eyes. He made no such representation, however,
when answering the question directed at the existence of an
infirmity which would render him unfit for safe operation of a
motor vehicle in his application for a public vehicle license. The
statement from his doctor, dated February 25, 1999, was that, based
on a February 23 skin test, Mr. Taher is allergic to grass,
ragweed, plantain, sorrel, aspergillus, cat, dog, dust mites and
Although Mr. Taher did not raise the issue as one of ADA
accommodation, under certain circumstances the Department of
Justice would consider an allergic condition a disability covered
by the ADA. The Department of Justice, however, declines to say
categorically that various environmental illnesses (also known as
multiple chemical sensitivities) are disabilities, because the
determination as to whether an impairment is a disability depends
on whether, given the particular circumstances at issue, the
impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities
(or has a history of, or is regarded as having such an effect.)
Sometimes respiratory or neurological functioning is so
severely affected that an individual will satisfy the requirements
to be considered disabled under the regulation. Such an individual
would be entitled to all of the protections afforded by the Act.
In other cases, individuals may be sensitive to environmental
elements or to smoke but their sensitivity will not rise to the
level needed to constitute a disability. For example, their major
life activity of breathing may be somewhat, but not substantially,
impaired. In such circumstances, the individuals are not disabled
and are not entitled to the protections of the statute despite
their sensitivity to environmental agents. The determination as to
whether allergies to cigarette smoke, or allergies or sensitivities
characterized as environmental illness are disabilities covered by
the regulation must be made by using the same case-by-case analysis
that is applied to all other physical or mental impairments.
However, even if Mr. Taher's allergic reaction to dogs was
determined to be a disability covered by the ADA, the ADA might not
require that the City accommodate him as a taxicab driver. As a
general rule, no covered entity shall discriminate against a
qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of
such individual in regard to job application procedures, the
hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee
compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions and
privileges of employment, relationship or association; making
reasonable accommodations to the physical or mental limitations of
an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is an
applicant or employee, unless such covered entity can demonstrate
that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the
operation of the business of such covered entity or by denying
employment opportunities to a job applicant or employee who is an
otherwise qualified individual with a disability, if such denial is
based on the need of such covered entity to make reasonable
accommodation to the physical or mental impairment of the employee
or applicant; using qualification standards, tests or other
selection criteria that screen out or tend to screen out an
individual with a disability or a class of individuals with
disabilities unless the standard, test or other selection criteria
as used by the covered entity, is shown to be job related for the
position in question and is consistent with business necessity.
1. Mr. Taher's public vehicle license should be revoked based
on his representations regarding his exercise of his religious
beliefs and his allergic reaction to dogs. The Public Vehicle
Office should reinstate his license only if: A. Mr. Taher
provides the necessary medical information for a determination of
whether his allergic condition amounts to an ADA disability. He
describes a severe allergic reaction to dogs that, in his own
words, would make it difficult for him to drive with a dog in the
cab. If his condition amounts to an ADA disability, an
accommodation analysis will be necessary. If his condition is not
an ADA disability, an analysis of his suitability to hold a public
vehicle license must be made under the provisions of the CMC.
Depending on the severity of his condition, he could experience the
same reaction in the presence of a dog owner, even if the dog is
not present. B. Mr. Taher provides written assurance that he will
transport blind persons and disabled persons with dog guides and
other service animals and will otherwise comply with the ADA, Ohio
law and the CMC.
2. Jamal Alwalwi's status as the holder of public vehicle
licenses should be reviewed. He is the owner of Sunshine Taxi and
owns and maintains a public vehicle license on the taxi Mr. Taher
operated when he declined to transport Ms. McEachirn. In a news
interview broadcast on February 4, 1999, Mr. Alwawi stated,
regarding his religious beliefs: We don't try to touch this dog.
Because if you touch this dog, if this dog spits on you, nothing in
the world would clean you up from that. In response to the
interviewer's question whether he would have given Ms. McEachirn a
ride if she had approached him rather than Mr. Taher, he stated:
No, I wouldn't. I wouldn't because of belief.
3. The Public Vehicle Office, with the assistance of the
Solicitor's Office should review its license application and the
rules sheet it provides when issuing a public vehicle license.
Obligations imposed by Local, State and Federal law should be clear
to the holder of a public vehicle license.
READER TRANSLATES ELECTRONIC TEXTS INTO BRAILLE
By Margaret Quan
GAITHERSBURG, Md. - The National Institute of Standards and
Technology's Information Technology Laboratory has initiated a
program to make the text displayed on electronic devices more
accessible to the blind and vision-impaired. Some of the current
research includes the investigation of the display aspects of
electronic-book readers and the development of a new Braille
display technology to improve accessibility to media such as
John Roberts, program manager for the Advanced Display
Technology Systems Lab within NIST's Information Technology Lab,
said that he and researcher Oliver Slattery became interested in
the idea last year when Judith Dixon, an official at the Library of
Congress involved in accessibility issues, suggested that there was
a need to make such technologies as electronic books accessible to
all people, especially the blind. Roberts said he wanted to design
a device that would increase the quality of life for the estimated
750,000 blind people in the United States, as well as for the
millions with low vision.
CHEAPER, MORE COMPACT: Many blind people do not have access
to Braille displays. The displays, which have a line of 40 Braille
characters and hundreds of actuators, can stretch to the size of
piano keyboards to accommodate all the characters in a continuous
line, and they cost between $10,000 and $15,000.
Roberts' goal was to design a more affordable, portable device
that would enable blind people to read electronic books as well as
the text on other electronic devices, such as personal digital
assistants (PDAs) and computers. He also wanted to reduce the cost
of such devices by a factor of 10 and make them more reliable by
reducing the number of actuators.
"I feel it's important [to work on accessibility devices]
because people who need them represent a tremendous intellectual
asset to the country," Roberts said.
While the blind can in theory use voice systems to access
electronic devices, Roberts explained that not everyone can use
them and added that the systems are often not as accurate as
Braille for precision work. For instance, he pointed out that if
a blind person wanted to write a computer program, the person would
use Braille, not speech technology. With that in mind, Roberts and
Slattery took up the challenge offered by Dixon and decided to
create a Braille interface for electronic books.
Slattery was given the job of building the prototype and
devised a rotating wheel-based design for a Braille electronic-book
reader. He used Labview instrument control software, a National
Instruments board with relays, transducers and other materials to
create the prototype.
The Braille reader takes words of text displayed on an
electronic book or PDA, and converts them, via Labview software,
into Braille. The instructions for the Braille symbol are sent as
a digital signal to a relay board and then a transducer board,
which triggers a solenoid to create a Braille symbol. The solenoid
interacts with the wheel, which has Braille cells placed along the
edge. There are 12 internal actuators inside the wheel base and
three external actuators on the wheel. When the actuators are
triggered, they write dots on the cells as the wheel turns. The
user places two fingers on two exposed Braille cells and reads the
Braille as the wheel moves.
The rotating wheel is designed to mesh with the way Braille
users read, by brushing their finger over lines of Braille, Roberts
said. Braille is read that way because the human sense of touch is
more sensitive when the finger is moving over the material, rather
than when it is still. The compact wheel format allows for long
lines of text and continuous reading: important considerations for
average Braille users, who read 120 to 125 words per minute.
Braille, like English, is a language that does not make sense if
it's not a continuous string.
Military roots Braille was invented by Louis Braille of France
in the 19th century. He based Braille on an old French military
code that employed dots to represent words and text. The code
allowed soldiers to read instructions in the dark. Braille
modified the code and it became the language used by many
blind people. There are two kinds of Braille. Grade One Braille is
character-for-character replacement, and Grade Two Braille
represents contractions, words or two-letter sequences.
The Institute prototype uses Grade One Braille, but Roberts
said a commercial version of the device could use either Grade One
or Grade Two Braille, and the device could be miniaturized and made
portable. The approach could also be implemented with a board of
power transistors instead of the mechanical relays Roberts and
Slattery used because they allowed the researchers to build the
device faster. Roberts believes electronic-book reading is a
natural application for the Braille reader and suggested that
it be integrated with, or attached to other reader devices and
The next step for the inventors is to make the Braille more
readable and to get feedback from Braille readers on how well it
works. In the meantime, the two inventors have filed for a patent.
No company has stepped forward to produce the device yet.
NOTES FROM THE NATIONAL OFFICE OF THE AMERICAN COUNCIL OF THE
* The leadership of all major blindness organizations met
to discuss and develop a strategy for advancing separate
and identifiable services to blind folks and the associated
challenges we face. Topics included a model state legislative
bill for the creation of Commissions for the Blind, cooperation
strategies between the groups, talking points to be used in the
advocacy network, and the coordination of information delivery
systems. The meeting included ACB, NFB, AER, NCSAB, NCPAB, the
Seeing Eye and others. All participated in the discussion and the
spirit of cooperation was more than evident throughout. Paul
Edwards and Charlie Crawford represented ACB and contributed much
to the discussion especially in the areas of qualified personnel
and the principles of consumer cooperation.
* We heard that our request for representation on the Rights
of Way advisory board to the Architectural Access Board was
granted. Melanie Brunson backed up by Charlie Crawford will
participate on this body that will develop the criteria used by the
federal government in defining pedestrian rights of way. This will
apply to intersections and sidewalks along with other important
areas where we need to go.
* A conference call was held with John Horst and Pam Shaw
from The Pennsylvania Council of the Blind with Paul Edwards and
Charlie Crawford. The issues in Pennsylvania on how the state is
chipping away at blind services need to be addressed forcefully if
blind Pennsylvanians are to have a service structure worth using.
The call produced a number of strategic ideas for tactical
implementation and we are confident that the united forces of blind
folks in the Quaker state will ultimately succeed.
* ACB sent three important letters on topics of interest to
our members. The first went to GSA requesting a meeting with the
Administrator for that agency to discuss and resolve the long term
issues of blind industrial employees who rely upon the Javits
Wagner O'Day Act for sales to the federal government. The second
went to the head of the Federal Communications Commission telling
him its time to get with the program and put out a notice of
proposed rule making for descriptive video services. The third one
went to our internet shopping village sponsor letting them know
that we have serious concerns about their opening page banner that
does not list ACB and other organizations that have recently signed
on to the shopping village. This creates potentially unfair
business advantages accrued by organizations on the banner. The
letter also reinforced ACB's concerns for increased accessibility
of the web site.
* Recently the Congress passed both the work incentives and
the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration Acts.
ACB has had a hand in these pieces of legislation and we are
quietly working to make sure that the conference committees
meeting to reconcile differences between the House and Senate
versions keep what we want. If successful, and its looking good;
the medical benefits extensions as a work incentive and the
ability to really put the heat on airlines that discriminate will
be in place!
* It looks like ACB may be able to attract the funding to
develop a couple of conferences which would be aimed at how to
really get that job. There are truths that are not all that
complicated which can seal the deal, but we need to see how much
we can take on with all we got going this year. However, the
money is on having the conferences!
* Affiliate Services Coordinator Terry Pacheco has been in
touch with the White House on a plan to get disabled folks
involved in a mentoring program coming out of the White House.
Its too early to say much more, but looks like a good idea for
getting blind students linked to exciting activities within the
TOUCHING AND TAPPING THROUGH LIFE
By Rachel Sobel, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
Christine Hunsinger leans her head back and strokes the face
of her bumpy Seiko watch. It's almost 6:35 a.m. She walks swiftly
around the coffee table in her pitch-black living room and says
goodbye to her husband Doug, who is sitting with Val, his
guide dog. With her long white cane in hand, Hunsinger nudges
around for the door handle and heads toward the curves and
sounds of the city.
Christine Hunsinger gets off the 46A Brentwood bus on Wood
Street, Downtown, on her way to work. (Tony Tye, Post-Gazette)
She gracefully extends her arm and rhythmically moves the long
cane - right step, left touch, left step, right touch. She
strolls across the lawn, poking the familiar cracks of her walkway.
The cane's tip lands in the soft grass and she steadily veers back
toward the concrete, coming to a pause at the corner of
Brownsville and Garden roads in Brentwood.
There is no chirping audio signal here, no traffic light, no
stop sign, no other pedestrians around. Just the random whir
of cars. Hunsinger, who is totally blind, points her long cane into
the crosswalk and calmly waits until she hears a break in the hum
of cars going by. Then, she briskly crosses the street to the bus
stop and shortly, the 46A arrives.
Like nearly half of the 10,200 legally blind people who live
in Allegheny County, Hunsinger makes her way with a white cane,
an aluminum rod wrapped in reflective tape with a flat handle and
a Fiberglass tip.
Today is the day annually set aside to raise awareness of the
challenges that blind pedestrians face. Since 1964, Oct. 15 has
been nationally designated White Cane Safety Day.
"There is a percentage of our population who function every
day without vision," says Richard L. Welsh, president of Pittsburgh
Vision Services, who estimated that there are 5,000 white cane
users in Allegheny County. "This day honors that and reminds people
that this is something to be aware of."
Hunsinger wants more people to appreciate the daily encounters
of a cane traveler - on this day or any other.
"I wish people would respect my rights when I wave my cane
around, and it doesn't always happen," she says.
From speeding drivers to inattentive pedestrians to accidents,
the path of a cane traveler is no yellow brick road.
Once, a car sped around a corner and broke her cane. Another
time, a pedestrian tripped over her cane and bent it, rendering
it useless. In another incident, her cane got caught in a metal
grate and slipped out of her hand into a sewer.
"Mornin', we got seats on both sides behind me," says the
driver of the 46A. "Good morning," Hunsinger says as she pats
around and finds a seat. She folds the cane into four parts and
sits on it.
A few stops into the route, Donna Talak of Brentwood gets on.
They've been riding the same route together for 14 months.
"I kinda missed you yesterday," Talak says.
"Well, gee, you know how the government is," Hunsinger replies
with a smile, having enjoyed a restful, three-day Columbus
Day weekend. They chat about Talak's daughter, the shopping
channel, audio museum tours, the stock market and Talak's recent
mishap. She had fallen the day before while walking home from the
bus stop and bruised her cheek.
"I guess you need a cane like me," Hunsinger jokes.
At Sixth and Wood, Downtown, they get off the bus and
Hunsinger holds Talak's elbow as the two make their way together to
Liberty Avenue, where Talak bids her farewell and goes to work.
Now Hunsinger is on her own and continues to the Social
Security Administration office at 915 Penn Ave., where she has
worked as a claims representative for seven years.
Without Talak, she runs into walls and collides with people
who look apologetic or surprised or, sometimes, annoyed. But
Hunsinger is nonchalant. She's used to the bruises, expects them,
even. Fortunately, she has never needed stitches. The bumps are
crucial to her navigation.
"Cane travel is a contact sport," Hunsinger says. "If you're
doing it right, you're supposed to hit things."
At one corner, Hunsinger gets her cane stuck between a
person's legs. The other pedestrian is startled and abruptly
untangles himself. She's back in business.
On Ninth Street, a security guard greets her at a usual spot,
the Catholic Charities building. Then, at the corner, she hears
the traffic stop across Ninth and realizes she might be able to go.
But Hunsinger is extremely cautious, as she moves around a
city where last year 309 pedestrian accidents occurred. Drivers
who make right turns and those who make rights on red sometimes do
"I felt safer rock climbing than I feel on some street
corners," she says, referring to a recent trip to Maryland.
Two blind pedestrians were killed in Pennsylvania in 1993, but
there have been no fatalities since then, according to the U.S.
Department of Transportation.
Hunsinger stretches her long cane and starts the trek across
Ninth. Next she crosses Penn, with the same poise and care. After
some more patting and pushing, Hunsinger arrives at work.
FAMILIAR LANDSCAPE: Hunsinger rests her white cane under the
desk and boots up her computer with its Braille refresher screen,
a solid rectangular device with raised Braille characters that
change with the cursor's location on the monitor.
In between note-taking on her Perkins Brailler, interviewing
clients, and listening to her speech synthesizer, which reads
the computer screen, Hunsinger explains why she won't need her
white cane at work.
Like walking around at home, moving about the office is old
hat. She knows the landscape - the turns, the twists, the
furniture - and can feel it by "facial vision," the perception of
reflected sound "heard" or felt by her face.
As she passes the coat rack on the way to the coffee room,
Hunsinger senses how the echoes change. The coats absorb more of
the vibrations from her footsteps so she knows to turn left toward
"It's almost like having someone stick their fingers in your
ears," she explains.
On city streets, facial vision works in tandem with the white
cane. The cane helps her evade people and walls while facial
vision helps her sense where to turn on a sidewalk, as the
reflection of sounds change from building to building.
Even with these aids, Hunsinger acknowledges that there are
some major obstacles to cane travel. One of the most challenging
is congested traffic. With cars in the crosswalk, Hunsinger can't
tell if the traffic is stopped with a green light -- meaning
it could move suddenly at any time - or with a red light. She'll
usually wait until the traffic clears or she'll approach
a fellow pedestrian for help.
But when someone says, "OK, it's red, go ahead," this confuses
her. Red for whom? Cars? What's more helpful, Hunsinger says,
is telling her that it's safe to travel because the light is green.
She welcomes assistance from anyone, unless the person is
inebriated or clearly confused. She'll accept help even if it's not
needed because she hates to discourage anyone from helping someone
in the future who really does need it.
Another challenge is dealing with curb cuts for wheelchairs.
The gradual sloping can be misleading, and sometimes puts her
out on the street without realizing it. Fortunately, many of
Downtown's curb cuts are steep enough to signal that the sidewalk
Construction also throws Hunsinger and other cane travelers
for a loop. She'll have to ask many questions and slowly learn the
With these obstacles, a guide dog might be helpful. A dog
knows when it's safe to cross a street and can thread a person
through a construction site faster than a cane.
Although roughly 5 percent of blind people use guide dogs,
Hunsinger holds fast to her cane. Dogs need to be fed and canes
don't, she says. When visiting friends, she doesn't have to worry
about whether they like dogs. And besides, there's already a dog
around the house, her husband's yellow Labrador.
BUILDING A BETTER CANE: The white cane that Hunsinger depends
upon has come a long way as a travel device. In the 1930s, the
Lions Club of Peoria, Ill., proclaimed the white cane a symbol of
independence for the visually impaired. This orthopedic-style cane
was a short piece of painted wood, curved at the top, and was used
primarily for leaning and support.
In the 1940s, a former teacher, Richard Hoover, stationed at
the Valley Forge Hospital in Chester County, transformed the
cane. He lengthened and lightened it so it was not just a symbol of
independence but an indispensable tool to check the walking
In honor of White Cane Safety Day, the Lions Club typically
raises funds outside shopping centers and grocery stores in
Pittsburgh and the surrounding area. Other groups, like the Golden
Triangle Council of the Blind, hand out pamphlets and send faxes
to boost awareness and appreciation of the blind.
When it's time to go home, Hunsinger cheerfully picks up her
white cane and eases her way into the great outdoors. It's another
rush hour and the people are staring, smiling and jumping to avoid
She hears another cane traveler and crosses paths with him,
but they don't speak to each other.
"What am I supposed to say? 'Hey, blind person?' " Hunsinger
She catches the 51C and asks the bus driver to tell her when
they get to Garden Road. After a while, she worries that he forgot.
"Nope," he replies. "We're approaching Garden right now."
At the bus stop, she pokes around, trying to figure out
exactly where the bus dropped her. A few feet or few yards can make
a big difference. "It's always a surprise where they let me off,"
But today, like any other day, Hunsinger, white cane in hand,
finds her way.
Sleep Shade Training Nebraska Style
By Michael L. Renner
Guide Program Coordinator
Kansas Specialty Dog Service
For 8 years the Guide program staff at Kansas Specialty dog
service has had the opportunity to teach persons that are blind or
visually impaired how to use a dog for their
mobility choice. We have had many students, friends and guests of
KSDS that have given us insight into the world of blindness. It
only stands to reason that we did not hesitate when we were
provided with the opportunity to train at the Nebraska Orientation
Center under instructors that are blind or visually impaired.
Fitos Floyd is the Supervisor for the orientation center in
Lincoln, Nebraska. I was invited to give a seminar to staff and
students at the center in June of 1999. While I was
there we discussed the services that are offered at the Center.
Fitos said that they had many times trained instructors for other
centers in surrounding states. She told me that anyone from KSDS
that would like to go through training at the center would be
welcome. KSDS Guide Dog program instructors took advantage of an
opening in the August 1999 session.
August 16th was the beginning of a week of learning,
awareness, and also an opportunity to show our skills as guide dog
trainers. With the invitation came a request that we bring our
dogs to give test drives to staff and students at the center. We
began on Monday with one of the five instructors that would be
working with us throughout the week.
Beginning cane mobility was our starting point. The theory
for the center is structured discovery learning. This type of
learning is basically a supervised exploring of the world
around you to orientate yourself.
This was an incredible source of information sharing for all
parties involved. I felt that through our experience we gained
knowledge to utilize in our program and assist in training our
students. In return we educated center staff on orientation and
mobility involved with using a guide dog.
The two pieces of information that I thought were the most
important for me as a guide dog instructor were: 1 You can get to
where you want to be if you listen; I mean really listen. 2. As
a sighted instructor it is important to demonstrate what you want
your students to learn. If someone is having a problem with
orientation do not always try to talk them through it. Put
yourself into their position and work together to find an answer.
The staff of KSDS is determined to provide the best possible
placements and instruction for our students. We are open to ideas
and opportunities to receive instruction as well as give it. This
is how we will continue to improve a program that will be serving
Kansas for a long time to come.
CENTRAL KANSAS ASSOCIATION FOR THE VISUALLY IMPAIRED (CKAVI)
deserves a rousing round of applause for the work done and the
hospitality shown at the recent annual meeting and convention of
the Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (K A B V I.)
Marvelous job, Folks! Thank you.
CKAVI recently sold chances on a quilt. Some lucky person's
name will be drawn in November and the quilt will be theirs.
NORTHWEST KANSAS ASSOCIATION FOR THE VISUALLY IMPAIRED NKAVI)
successfully hosted the second annual low vision fair in September.
The organization netted $1000 from ticket sales for the
American Legion Breakfast. Good work! It hardly seems possible
that a gentleman as busy as Santa Claus can find time to appear at
individual homes or parties, but he's agreed to do just that for a
fee. He has set aside time between November 26 and December 23.
To rent a bit of Santa's valuable time, contact Pat Hall at
SOUTHWEST KANSAS ASSOCIATION FOR THE VISUALLY IMPAIRED (SKAVI)
learned about Talking Books and about the Telecommunications Access
Program (TAP) at recent meetings. Congratulations are due Travis
Dilley of North Glenn, Colorado, a long time volunteer for Camp
Mitchell. Travis worked with visually impaired campers when he was
a Boy Scout, helped during his college years, and took vacation
time from his job to work with the children. Travis recently
received the SKAVI Outstanding Service Award. The Knights of
Columbus Christmas Bazaar was held November 19, 1999. SKAVI paid
for the booth and members who displayed products received the money
from the sales of their products.
TOPEKA ASSOCIATION FOR THE VISUALLY IMPAIRED (TAVI) celebrated
Thanksgiving with a dinner November 20, 1999.
The Wichita Association for the Visually Handicapped (WAVH)
will hold its 38th annual Christmas dinner on December 2, 1999 at
St. Peters Catholic Church in Schulte. At this dinner the Margaret
C. Champ award will be presented posthumously to Shirley Smith in
recognition of her many years of outstanding service on behalf of
blind and visually impaired people in the Wichita area. Shirley
was also recognized at the K A B V I convention in Great Bend with the
Extra Step Award. The plaque for this K A B V I award will be
presented to Grady Landrum, Director of the Center for Disabled
Students at Wichita State University and will be on display in the
Center as a memorial to Shirley.
K A B V I has introduced a number of items displaying the K A B V I
logo. Golf shirts, long sleeve polo shirts, sweat shirts and two
sizes of tote bags make up the current lineup. for details and to
place orders contact either Sandra Evans (316-524-3138) or Barbara
As part of the newly launched K A B V I technology center,
equipment assessments, computer evaluations, construction of
computer systems and other assistive technology services are
available. For details, contact Michael Goren, Chair of K A B V I's
Technology and Communication Committee (316)686-3489). K A B V I is
also designing a web site that will be online early in the new
Thanks to all you chapter news editors for sending your
BITS AND PIECES
NEW PROGRAMS: Kansas Employment and training Services is in
the process of installing new programs on Job Service Career Center
computers which provide access to persons who have impaired vision.
Individuals with sight impairments will be able to use the
Kansas Job Bank and America's Job Bank to locate employment.
ZoomText Xtra is a program that magnifies the images on the
computer screen up to 1600 percent. ASAW by Micro Talk is a
program that reads the screen for blind individuals. Job Service
Career Center staff start the programs and clients can go from
there. Headphones will be connected to the computers and users can
adjust the speed and the tone of the screen reader's voice. The
programs, which can be used on all Windows applications, were
purchased by the Kansas Occupational Information Coordination
MYRNA OLIVER, Staff Writer for The Los Angeles Times, reported
Attorney Stanley Fleishman Died September 23, 1999. The First
Amendment champion defended writers, the disabled and
pornographers. Stanley Fleishman, an attorney physically disabled
by polio from the age of 1, overcame disabilities to stand in front
of the U.S. Supreme Court on crutches and win countless 1st
Amendment and civil rights suits for clients ranging from the
disabled to pornographers. Fleishman was 79. He was known for
winning and was revered by his colleagues even if some of his
clients were not. He did extensive work on behalf of the disabled,
but Fleishman also earned a reputation for defending far less
savory clients as a pioneering member of the "porn bar" who
defended the public's right to create, buy and sell products
related to sex. Fleishman broke legal ground for the 1st
Amendment, championing such wide-ranging fare as the adult film
"Deep Throat," Henry Miller's once-banned book "Tropic of Cancer"
and the chain of Pussycat Theaters. That work earned him the Hugh
M. Hefner 1st Amendment Award for lifetime achievement "for his
persistent devotion and unflagging courage in extending the 1st
Amendment, by means of the judicial process, to include hitherto
unprotected modes of expression."
WORLD POST HELPS BLIND WITH FREE MAIL: the ongoing 22nd
universal postal congress (upc) passed an agreement here today to
offer free mailing of printed materials in braille to the blind
around the world. euclid j. herie, president of the world blind
union (wbu), said that the inter-governmental deal will greatly
promote the cause of helping the blind. herie was in beijing to
attend the upc. about 80 percent of the 50 million blind people
in the world are impoverished, he said, adding that they urgently
need information in order to enjoy the same opportunities as
sighted people. he hopes that the mailing to the 189 member
countries of the universal postal union (upu) will help meet the
need of the poverty-stricken blind population. wbu is based in
toronto, canada, with more than 50 million members and
many branches around the world.
THORA JANE STEELE, 93, retired U S D 259 teacher, died Monday
October 25, 1999. Survivors INCLUDE: sons Larry AND John, both of
Wichita; three grandchildren; four great grandchildren. Mrs.
Steele taught Math at Truesdell Junior High School. She learned
braille and gave up her planning hour each day to teach visually
impaired students Math. She used several innovative methods TO
teach other useful skills to blind and low vision students. the
most memorable was teaching hand writing. she used clay on
cardboard to form the letters. We felt with our hands to learn the
shapes of the letters and then transferred that to actual writing
WAYNE G. WIMBERLY, 65, died October 21, 1999. He was born
April 16, 1934, in El Rino, Oklahoma out of the union of Fern
Peppers and Walter Wimberly.
Upon moving to Oklahoma City, Wayne attended St. Peter Claver
and received his other formal education in Wichita, Kansas.
Graduating from Bishop Carroll and Mount Carmel, he received his BA
Wayne served in the U.S. Air Force and was honorably
discharged. He was a member of Holy Savior Parish. Wayne was
commander of the DVA and a member of the Knights of Columbus.
Wayne is survived by his mother, Fern Peppers, and an aunt,
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Mark your calendars for the following events of importance
to blind and visually impaired Kansans. For more information,
contact the relevant organization directly.
* February 19-21, 2000 ACB Mid-year meetings, Louisville, KY
* State Rehabilitation Council meeting, Topeka. Contact Peg
Spencer, 785-267-5301 X220 for details.
* March 18-20, 2000 ACB Legislative Seminar, Doubletree Hotel,
Washington DC. Contact: ACB National Office, 202-467-5081.
* April 29, 2000 K A B V I Focus Day II, KSDS, Washington KS.
Topic: O&M, the Cane and the Guide Dog. Contact: Sanford
* May 1-3, 2000 Statewide Independent Living
Council Summit, Kansas City. Contact: SILCK, 700 SW
Jackson, Suite 212, Topeka, KS 66603, 785-234-6990 (V/TDD)
* June 3-4, 2000 State Rehabilitation Council meeting, Topeka.
Contact Peg Spencer, 785-267-5301.
* July 2-8, 2000 ACB Convention, Louisville, KY. Contact: ACB
* September 18-20, 1999 Assistive Technology conference:
Topeka Expo Center. Contact: Assistive Technology for
Kansans Project, Sheila Simmons, 2601 Gabriel, Parsons KS
67357, 316-421-8367 or 1-800-526-3648, e-mail: email@example.com
* October 19, 2000 Inaugural Mary T. Adams Seminar, Holiday Inn,
Great Bend, KS. Contact Dr. Kendall Krug, 785-625-3937
* October 20-22, 1999 K A B V I convention: Great Bend Holiday Inn.
Contact: Regina Henderson, Convention Coordinator, 1010
Inverness, Wichita KS 67218, 316-687-0113
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Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Inc.
924 S. Kansas Ave. Topeka, KS 66612
phone: 785-235-8990 toll free in KS: (800)-799-1499